As awareness of cannabidiol (CBD) and its potential health and wellness benefits grows, more attention is being paid to how CBD might help with some of our most pressing healthcare issues. Of the groups that can potentially benefit, our military veterans have some of the most pressing and immediate needs, and substantial research is now being carried out to determine whether and to what extent CBD oil, capsules, and other cannabidiol products can serve as useful therapy tools.
We have over 20 million veterans living in the United States — an alarming number of whom suffer from PTSD, pain, anxiety, sleep disorders, and other potentially crippling chronic health issues. And as research into CBD develops, it’s become increasingly clear that this natural compound might serve as an important treatment, improving general wellness and ameliorating some of the worst symptoms affecting our military service members.
CBD AND POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common ailments affecting military veterans. Between 10 and 20 percent of veterans reportedly suffer from PTSD — a startling number that is 3 to 6 times higher than in the civilian population.
PTSD can have crippling effects. It is associated with stress and anxiety, elevated levels of persistent baseline fear, insomnia, and avoidance of everyday situations that remind the person of their trauma. These symptoms touch on virtually every aspect of the person’s day to day life and can result in severe depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.
PTSD has traditionally been treated through a combination of therapy and medications (such as SSRIs or other antidepressants). And while these treatments are effective for many suffering from PTSD, they can have negative consequences, including addiction and drug-related side effects that occasionally worsen some PTSD-related symptoms.
Even before the recent surge in government-sponsored CBD research, many veterans turned to cannabis products as a supplement or alternative to traditional PTSD treatment. A number of small-to-moderate sized studies on such use found “that cannabinoid use was associated with global improvements in PTSD symptoms or amelioration of specific PTSD symptoms.”
Spurred on by these early findings and by a passionate community of veterans advocating CBD use as an alternative treatment, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is finally conducting more in-depth, thorough research to determine precisely how CBD can assist those suffering from PTSD.
While that research is ongoing, early clinical findings and the wealth of anecdotal user reports all agree that CBD can be a powerful tool for veterans looking to manage some of the worst symptoms of PTSD.
CBD AND OTHER COMMON PROBLEMS AFFECTING VETERANS
Outside of PTSD, the most common afflictions affecting U.S. military veterans are chronic pain, anxiety, and sleep disorders. And each of these are issues that users commonly employ CBD to treat.
In their 2018 academic study, researchers Jamie Corroon and Joy A. Phillips surveyed nearly 2500 regular CBD users about their treatment needs, and on the way that CBD had affected their symptoms.
The response was clear: “Respondents most frequently reported feeling that CBD treated their medical condition(s) ‘very well by itself’ or ‘moderately well by itself’” for pain and anxiety, and with similarly positive results for sleep, depression, and PTSD-related symptoms — and with minimal, if any, negative side effects.
For veterans, these findings offer exciting treatment possibilities — with CBD, either on its own or as a supplement to traditional treatment methods, helping to assuage some of the most debilitating health effects associated with service.
Research shows that veterans are far more likely to experience chronic pain than are nonveterans, and that the pain they experience is, on average, far more severe.
Traditional treatments for such pain typically involve opioid prescriptions, but these drugs are highly addictive and can cause severe negative side effects.
As of January 2019, more than 130 people die each day from opiate overdoses. With the recent surge of lawsuits targeting major drug companies that produce opioids, it’s clear that public sentiment is shifting and that new pain relief alternatives are necessary.
Formal research into CBD’s potential for treating severe and chronic pain is ongoing, but anecdotal accounts and early clinical findings agree — CBD has the potential to be a powerful pain relief tool for veterans and others suffering from even the worst pain symptoms.
Acute generalized anxiety is another of the most common afflictions plaguing veterans. In fact, research shows that the prevalence of anxiety disorders in the military is at a startling high, with diagnoses up 327% since 2000. While this increase is due, at least in part, to better diagnostic practices and more veterans receiving help, the startling figure demonstrates a profound need for effective treatment.
Because anxiety affects social interaction, quality and frequency of sleep, and the ease with which veterans reintegrate into civilian life, anxiety disorders such as these can be truly debilitating.
As with pain management, user’s anecdotal reports overwhelmingly suggest that CBD can be an effective treatment for chronic and acute anxiety, leading to an improved sense of well-being and reduced stress from daily life.
For veterans, anxiety disorders are often linked to PTSD, and to specific traumatic experiences that can be triggered by common social settings. Research on the effects of CBD in rats suggests that CBD has a powerful effect on traumatic stress response of this kind. Subjects in that trial experienced a marked decrease in stress from their traumatic triggers — a finding that could have significant positive implications for veterans.
Pain, anxiety, and other common symptoms affecting veterans can lead to problems sleeping. This may not be too surprising, but this interaction can have devastating implications for veterans suffering from PTSD related symptoms: pain causes lack of sleep, and lack of sleep causes the pain symptoms to become more severe. This is a truly crippling, self-reinforcing cycle of suffering.
Research shows that one of the endocannabinoid system’s most important functions is in regulating sleep stability. Based on this, researchers speculate — and regular users agree — that consistent use of CBD can have a powerful positive impact on quality and consistency of sleep. In fact, one major clinical study from 2019 found that regular CBD use both improved sleep quality and reduced associated anxiety after just one month’s treatment.
Treatment for insomnia and other sleep disorders is one of the most common reasons that users turn to CBD. And while the full implications of CBD and sleep regulation, particularly for veterans, are still being researched, initial findings show overwhelming promise.
THE FINAL WORD ON CBD FOR VETERANS
As with all things in the world of cannabis-derived products, the full implications of CBD’s potential for treating veterans are still emerging. The decades-long federal prohibition on cannabis research has stunted the growth of this promising treatment option, but the future looks bright.
With the VA’s first official study into CBD kicking off earlier this year, veteran and civilian users alike should hope to have more concrete answers in the near future.
Until then, the wealth of users who claim that CBD has positively affected their health and wellness — coupled with early research confirming these claims — overwhelmingly agree: CBD has the potential to be a powerful tool for addressing common veteran ailments, with few to no negative side effects.
For military veterans suffering from the often-crippling symptoms related to their service, CBD oil has promised to revolutionize treatment, offering a natural alternative with profound potential benefits.